comscore Apple MacBook review roundup: Impressive, but one for the future
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Apple MacBook review roundup: Impressive, but one for the future

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Apple took the wraps off its newest 12-inch MacBook at the Spring Forward event earlier this year. With the laptop going on sale today, the first reviews of Apple s latest take on the notebooks have surfaced online. During its launch, Apple boldly claimed that it had reinvented the notebook, let s see if the reviewers are sold on the company s vision. Here s our MacBook review roundup. Also Read - Apple shines in June quarter, posts record sales for iPhones, Macs and iPads

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The new MacBook is not only the slimmest Mac Apple has ever built, but it also brings in a lot of new features. The laptop sports a 2304 1440 resolution display and is just 13.1mm thick at its thickest point. To achieve the thinness, the company has let go of all ports, and there is only an audio jack and an USB-C port, which according to Apple is sufficient for all the tasks. Also Read - Apple releases important iOS 14.7.1 update: iPhone users must download it right now

Other changes include a new keyboard, which stretches from edge-to-edge and also includes a new mechanism Apple calls Butterfly. It is 40 percent thinner than standard keyboards, and evenly distributes the pressure on a single key than the traditional scissor mechanism. The trackpad called Force Touch too has been reinvented and is not clickable any more.

Design

There s been a lot of talk around the MacBook s impossible thin frame and the overall design. The overall consensus is quite positive.

The Verge s Dieter Bohn was pretty impressed with what Apple has achieved, in terms of design.

The MacBook is what happens when the iPad Air decides to up and grow a keyboard, hinge, and trackpad. It’s a thin, compact, and light sliver of a machine with no loose pieces and no unconsidered lines. The same precision we’ve seen on Apple’s phones and tablets has been applied here it’s genuinely a level above any other laptop Apple has ever made, to say nothing of other hardware makers.

It is, in a word, beautiful.

Mashable s Christina Warren was equally gushing about the design and size.

Using the MacBook for the last week, I’ve found traveling with it to be a joy. It’s about a pound lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air, and coupled with the smaller form factor, it just feels more portable. I had to check a few times to make sure I actually had the MacBook in my bag.

The size of the new MacBook really reminds me more of an iPad with a built-in keyboard case instead of a laptop. In practice, the new MacBook is just half a pound heavier than the original iPad and considerably thinner.

But just because the MacBook is small doesn’t mean it feels cheap: The anodized unibody construction feels solid, and aluminum now covers all sides of the laptop.

Keyboard and TrackPad

Along with the notebook itself, Apple also redesigned the keyboard and trackpad. Both have reinvented what is now considered mainstream, and reviewers believe it will take some time to get used to them.

ArsTechnica s Andrew Cunningham says,

The keyboard in this MacBook is going to be a love-hate thing for a lot of people, but our impression of it got better as we used it for longer.

Because there s not much room for the keys to move, the keyboard is intentionally shallow with a small amount of key travel. Good travel is one of the things we like best about the MacBook Air and Pro keyboards, so even liking Apple s current keyboards doesn t guarantee you ll like this one. Even so, we would draw a line between its precise, intentional, clicky shallowness and the mushy shallowness of a low-rent chiclet keyboard you might find in a budget PC.

The problem with those keyboards is partly that they re shallow, yes, but also that there s a lot of give to the keys. Type on a cheap chiclet keyboard, and sometimes the laptop s entire keyboard tray will move up and down as you press keys. At the same time, the keys are easy to press, which increases the chance that you ll press the wrong thing by accident as your fingers move from key to key.

Engadget s Dana Wollman too continues in the same vein

At first glance, the keyboard doesn’t seem very promising: It’s so flat that the buttons basically sit flush with the keyboard deck. In other words, it’s a big departure from the relatively cushy keys we’re used to on the MacBook Air and Pro. Then you try it, though, and you realize it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as it looks. It’s quite nice — and in some ways it’s an improvement over traditional laptop keyboards.

As it turns out, although the buttons are indeed flat, there’s actually a lot going on beneath the surface. Despite the fact that the keyboard is 34 percent thinner, the keys feel remarkably springy and well-supported.

But Wollman isn t convinced with Apple s new trackpad.

I’m not convinced most of these pressure-sensitive gestures are actually useful. Even now that I’ve had several weeks to play with Force Touch, on both the Pro and the MacBook, I still can’t always pull off the “Wikipedia preview” thing in Safari on my first try — sometimes I merely highlight the word; sometimes I succeed in pulling up the preview box. [ ] If anything, I find the speedy fast-forwarding to be the most practical use case, and even then, I didn’t use it often.

[ ] The good news is, you get used to it. Some of this comes with time, although I also found it helped to enable tap-to-click. Ultimately, I find it easier to forgive the new trackpad here than I did with the 13-inch Pro. For all its shortcomings, the Force Touch allows the new MacBook to be thinner than it might have been otherwise. The MBP swaps in a new, less comfortable touchpad, but isn’t any thinner or lighter for it.

Lack of connectors

While the design has impressed the reviewers, the one issue no one can get past is the lack of connectors.

The Wall Street Journal s Joanna Stern thinks Apple s vision of just one port is something for the future, but currently users will rue the lack of multiple connectors.

Here in 2015, the majority of us still require two or three ports for connecting our hard drives, displays, phones and other devices to our computer not to mention a dedicated power plug. [ ] The new MacBook represents an exciting evolution in portable computing, but at this point it is more a proof of concept than your next computer.

FastCompany s Harry McCracken too writes on the same lines,

Replacing a bevy of connections with one diminutive port makes for a more attractive-looking computer, no doubt. The problem is that plugging in devices gets complicated fast, especially since virtually no accessories designed for USB-C are available yet. Apple is selling an adapter that lets you connect gadgets that use old-style USB connectors ($19), as well as ones that allow you to connect an HDMI or VGA display ($79 apiece). The latter two also include one USB-C and one full-size USB port, allowing you to connect a more generous display, a power adapter, and one standard USB device simultaneously.

Bohn too isn t impressed with the lack of ports, and writes how you ll need to multiple dongles.

The new MacBook has a new port, called USB Type-C. It’s also the only port besides the headphone jack. You use it for power and for connecting your phone, monitor, printer, camera, or whatever else you might have. And because it’s a brand new kind of plug, you will need adapters for all of those things.

Say you want to charge your computer, plug in your iPhone, and plug in an external monitor. That’s a totally natural thing to want to do! To pull it off, you are going to need to have the right dongle and you re going to need to buy it, too, since they don t come in the box. They’re just beginning to come on the market now, and I m hopeful they ll be both cheap and plentiful, but so far I’ve only been able to use the basic ones. So, just by way of example, right now I can’t plug my Apple MacBook into my Apple Cinema Display because I don t have a dongle with Display Port on it.

Performance

There were reports and leaked benchmarks, which raised concerns over the performance chops of the low-power Intel M processor under the hood. Some even claimed that the overall performance was on par with 2011 MacBook Air. But in reality, things are not as bad, and performance levels are actually satisfactory.

TechCrunch s Darrell Etherington says,

Pre-launch concerns of this machine being seriously hampered by its low-power Intel M processor were, in my experience, very premature. The new MacBook handled the tasks I threw at it so well that I am now seriously considering whether or not I can adopt one full-time, as a replacement to my original 2012 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro road warrior.

But the takeaway here is that practically speaking, the MacBook does not feel hamstrung performance-wise because of the concessions Apple has made to ensure maximum portability, at least based on my existing testing. This is not the original MacBook Air part two, in other words, with trade-offs that served the future goals of the line but did no favors to original purchasers: It s a powerful, competent notebook that can most likely do what you need it to do.

For those who primarily use their devices for watching video, browsing the web, using the new Photos app for organizing their picture library and other lighter tasks, performance absolutely exceeds the mark.

Wollman too has similar observations,

Benchmarks can’t tell you all that much about what it’s like to use a computer, though. As I used the Macbook to perform general-purpose tasks in software such as the Microsoft Office apps, Photoshop, iPhoto, and Skype, it felt more than adequately snappy. The only evidence I ever spotted that the Core M was wheezing to keep up was when the MacBook’s underside got toasty-warm after a long Skype video call.

Stern however isn t sold over the MacBook s performance

The new MacBook also isn t as fast as the Air. It s rather snappy at managing my basic routine checking email, surfing the Web and running various messaging apps. But the Intel Core M processor, even backed by 8GB of RAM and a 256GB fast solid-state drive, struggles at performance-intensive tasks, like managing lots of open apps and browser tabs while editing photos. When I have over 25 tabs open in Chrome (which happens more often than not), I can feel it wanting to keel over.

Battery life

Bloomberg s Joshua Topolsky and Stephen Pulvirent say,

I averaged about 8 hours of battery life with the new MacBook, which isn t bad for such a small package carrying a bright, dense screen. It’s a little less than Apple says the MacBook can muster, and I did find myself double-checking that I had my charger before leaving my apartment for work; otherwise things started to get dodgy come 5 p.m.

Cunningham too experienced a similar battery performance on his MacBook,

In real-world usage, the MacBook s battery will easily get you through an eight-hour workday, but it doesn t feel as luxurious as the battery in recent 13-inch Airs. We d expect the move to be easier to get used to if you re coming from an older Air or an 11-inch model, all of which have lesser battery life.

Price tag

All these changes come at a cost and a big one at that. Starting at $1,299 (Rs 99,000 in India), this notebook is not targeted at everyone.

Re/code s Katherine Boehret says,

I think this MacBook is too extreme and too expensive for a lot of people right now. It goes on sale Friday, starting at $1,299, which is $100 more than the high-end MacBook Air with a standard configuration. It eliminates all standard USB ports and the SD card slot, replacing them with a single, smaller USB-C port, which must also be used to charge your laptop.

Wollman writes,

The name “MacBook,” unadorned by a modifier such as “Air” or “Pro,” might suggest that this is a general-purpose machine for the masses. Not true. The starting price $1,299 for a unit with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage is $400 more than the cheapest version of Apple s cheapest notebook, the 11-inch MacBook Air.

Not everyone thinks the high price is an issue. Warren can understand the high price, despite some of the trade-offs.

The starting price of $1,299 feels right for the new MacBook. It’s a quality machine and yes, there are some trade-offs, but it it is absolutely the thinnest and lightest Mac you can buy.

Conclusion

The overall impressions are mixed bag. While the reviewers are gushing about the futuristic design, they are unanimous in their criticism over the lack of ports. The high price tag doesn t help either. Most conclude by saying this is a notebook for the future, but it is safe to give it a skip in the present.

Boehret says,

If money is no issue for you, you want a significantly smaller laptop, and you don t mind being limited by a lack of ports, then maybe upgrading to the new MacBook makes sense for you. But if you rely on USB ports and SD card slots, this MacBook s single port for charging, storage transfers and other functionality will really bug you.

In a few years, we may look back on this laptop s missing USB ports like we look back on the original MacBook Air s absent Ethernet port or missing optical disk drive thinking, Who needed that? We re just not quite there yet.

Yahoo Tech s David Pogue says,

But unless you re a well-heeled executive who doesn t do much besides write, email, and surf the Web, the price you pay in speed, utility, and, yes, price is just too high.

We know what this is: This is the 2008 MacBook Air. Today, the MacBook Air is frequently cited as the best laptop on the market but the first model, in 2008, was also called overpriced, underpowered, and amazing-looking. In the same way, the 12-inch MacBooks of 2016 and 2017 will lose their flaws, enter a new era of USB-C compatibility, and seem much more at home in a more wireless world.

Even Apple is allowed to start with a 1.0 version. But you don t have to buy it.

Wollman says,

Much like the original Air, the new MacBook is expensive, and it s not for everyone. In particular, it s for well-heeled shoppers who demand the most portable machine possible, and who also don t want to compromise on screen quality. That might not be persuasive to would-be Windows users, who have several compelling alternatives, many with equally sharp screens and a bigger selection of ports. But for loyal Mac fans who wouldn t dream of switching, the new MacBook is by far the lightest-weight machine in Apple s lineup, especially with this caliber of screen. It s not for everyone, especially not right now, but if it s anything like the Air, it might one day become the standard.

The Loop s Jim Dalrymple is however sticking to the new MacBook.

The new MacBook is a gorgeous computer that expertly fills a niche that many need. It s powerful enough to do all of the regular work you ll need to get done at home, the office, or on the road. The model I m using is Space Gray, has 8GB of RAM and a 1.1 GHz Intel Core M processor.

The MacBook runs completely silent and fits perfectly into my workflow. I haven t touched either of my other two computers since I started using this one, and I m very happy. This is my workflow now. The good news is that if you need more ports or more power, Apple has two other MacBook product lines that may suit your needs. For me, I m sticking with MacBook.

The new MacBook starts shipping today, including in India, with prices starting from a whopping Rs 99,000. The MacBook with with a 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.4 GHz, 8GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300 starts at INR 99,900, while the 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.6GHz, 8GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300 will start at INR 119,900.

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  • Published Date: April 10, 2015 1:50 PM IST



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